Clods and Clowns–Which are You?

Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

There are tall people and short people, fat people and skinny people, morning people and night people, slow people and quick people, smart people and not-so-smart people, and serious people and humorous people. None of these are completely positive assets or totally negative ones. Each is a mix of plusses and minuses. If the world comprised only serious people, it would be a somber place indeed. Just as if it consisted only of humorous types, it would be an unbalanced setting in which to navigate.

We need both types, desirably in balanced measure. Just as certain kinds of mornings make night desirable, so evenings can make the morning welcome. Serious people contribute weight to a gathering or a conversation. They are able to confront a problematic situation that has developed and devote the time and attention to it that it requires. This capacity assures that a situation is properly assessed and addressed, and that important aspects of a project are not overlooked or disregarded. Serious people are good at sizing up developments, and are usually not caught by surprise. They excel in planning and programming, and are adept at preventing failure, or in addressing it when it occurs. Problems get the kind of focus and analysis that lead to their solution. In the language of football, serious people are the heavyweights, the fullbacks, who can head straight into the midst of formidable opposition and nullify it. The fullback bears down upon an intractable issue and manages to confront it head on.

Humorous people are skilled in skirting problems. They can flit around difficulties in such a way that they can avoid their sharp edges. What initially looms as a serious difficulty becomes just a past memory when the humorous person addresses it.   The humorous person is comparable to the happy hour that precedes a ponderously serious gathering, engendering camaraderie and laughter into an assembly heavy with foreboding and dread. Such a person is the first to see the rainbow glistening in a dark sky that threatens with its clouds and thunder. He or she can often see that there are more than two sides to an issue, possibly four, six or more sides. In Shakespeare’s plays, a significant role was often assigned to the court jester, presenting another approach to the situation facing the king pondering some serious course of action. The jester can melt down what seems like an insurmountable iceberg. Humor is an attitude adjuster, which is often the prelude to dissolving an ice-encased problem that has resisted other attempts to dispose of it. In football jargon, again, humorous people are the scatter-backs skilled at running past or around the opposition, breaking loose into an open field.

These are the skills of two different kinds of persons. Both types are needed.   A gathering of leaders none of whom ever cracks a smile forebodes an unpromising setting into which people are frozen. A much needed thaw is unlikely to happen. On the other hand, the kind of meeting in which nothing but back-slapping and remarks prefaced with the usual “have you ever heard this one?” and punctuated with guffaws is no more promising.   While avoidance and/or a “let’s get this thing over with” attitude threatens any promise latent in a gathering of “the serious”, frittering away of time and opportunity dismays participants in a gathering latent with great potential but rapidly dissolving for participants asking “why did I ever come to this party of clowns?”

We need both parties and wakes. A touch of lightheartedness and of seriousness do best when combining like oil and vinegar: a bit of each.

Author: CPP

We are a community of laymen and laywomen who, with vowed Passionists, seek to share in the charism of St. Paul of the Cross through prayer, ongoing spiritual formation, and proclamation of the message of Christ Crucified.

2 thoughts on “Clods and Clowns–Which are You?”

  1. Thanks, Sebastian. We need variety that’s for sure. Maybe that’s why commuity works when everyone shares their gifts and talents. Sometimes we need to lighten up and sometimes we need to be more serious, so let;s embrace those who do both for us and pray that we have a balance so that we accomplish what need to be done.

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